Friday, February 24, 2012

Isles Drop Rival Rangers 4-3

The game began with a Matt Moulson goal and ended the very same way.

The Islanders emerged 4-3 winners over the rival New York Rangers after 65 minutes of spirited hockey (plus a shootout) on Friday (2/24) night in Nassau.

In addition to a veteran goaltender (Evgeni Nabokov) and a kid (Casey Cizikas) making his league debut, the game showcased two players who were on opposite sides of the rivalry just two seasons ago. PA Parenteau played 22 games with the New York Rangers in 2009-2010 after languishing in their minor leagues for several years. In that same season, Martin Biron backed up Dwayne Roloson in 29 games for the Isles.

The pair has since switched allegiances, each player now having very good seasons for their respective teams.

Biron started the game for the Rangers, who have shot to the top of the Eastern Conference through steady scoring, superior goaltending, and a skilled defense. They came into the game a whopping 23 better than the Islanders in the standings.

But as any fan of either team knows, you can throw that out the window when the two rivals meet.

The aforementioned Moulson got the Islanders out to a 1-0 lead just 6:07 into the contest, taking a slick pass from John Tavares from behind the net and hammering it home.

PA Parenteau, who has been somewhat of a revelation for the Islanders, at times playing on the top line this season, netted another two goals in this contest. He rocketed a shot past Biron to double his team's lead at the 8:42 mark, and the Isles quieted those fans in the stands who chose to wear blue and red sweaters to the game.

After last year's breakout performance, Parenteau is making his case for a big payday this summer. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent, and there is some question as to what his fate will be on Long Island.

He is making General Manager Garth Snow's job very difficult, since the trading deadline is this coming Monday (2/27).

After a second Parenteau goal, this time on a power play at 8:11 of the second period, the Isles looked to be on their way to a victory. They had a 3-1 lead (Marc Staal had earlier narrowed the gap with a power play goal of his own) with a very steady Nabokov in goal.

Nabokov, who is also set to become a free agent this summer, is supposedly in discussions with the team about a contract extension, though at this point there is no substantive news to report.

Casey Cizikas, the 20 year old center, was called up and debuted with a baptism by fire. He played 11-plus minutes, including some power play time, and acquitted himself nicely according to Head Coach Jack Capuano.

"I thought he responded well. He works extremely hard. He gave us some good minutes tonight, won some key faceoffs too."

The game was chippy throughout, but there was only one major fight and it was early on. Matt Marin battled Stu Bickel to a draw in the first period.

The Islanders eventually squandered their lead but held on through a scoreless third period. Nabokov finished with 33 saves (not including those made in the shootout).

Frans Nielsen and Matt Moulson scored in that competition to bring the victory home for the Islanders, and their fans earned bragging rights, at least on this night.

The Islanders, who have just 21 games left to make a playoff run, will need to put together a long winning streak to have a realistic chance at the postseason. They play 13 of the remaining games on the road.

The first of those road contests will take place Sunday, in Ottawa. We'll have news of any team transactions that take place as well.

News and notes:

- Travis Hamonic returned from a ghoulish face injury which required surgery, but he played well and earned Capuano's praise. He played over 22 minutes after sitting out for nine games. The coach called him "a vocal young guy."

- Josh Bailey was scratched with back spasms.

- John Tavares had two assists to bump his season point total to 60. He won 20 of 33 (61%) faceoffs.

- The Islanders improved their record to 5-1 all-time in shootouts against the Rangers. Nabokov has never lost one as an Islander.

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